Cognitive Responsibility and the Epistemic Virtues

Duncan Pritchard

in Epistemic Luck

Published in print March 2005 | ISBN: 9780199280384
Published online April 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602290 | DOI:
Cognitive Responsibility and the Epistemic Virtues

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I argue that the notion of reflective epistemic luck raises important questions about the centrality to epistemology of a conception of justification that demands that one is able to take cognitive responsibility for one’s beliefs. I take a critical look at some of the recent ‘virtue epistemologies’ that have been put forward in the recent literature which define knowledge in terms of the epistemic virtues and cognitive faculties. More specifically, I contrast broadly externalist construals of the virtue-theoretic thesis—such as the ‘agent reliabilism’ advanced, for example, by Ernest Sosa and John Greco—with virtue epistemologies that roughly fall into the internalist camp—in particular, ‘neo-Aristotelian’ theories, such as the view defended by Linda Zagzebski. I claim that in each case a key part of the motivation for offering such a view lies in a desire to eliminate a species of epistemic luck that is thought to be left uneliminated by rival theories of knowledge. In general, I claim that externalists and internalists in epistemology often speak past one another precisely because they are concerned with these different types of epistemic luck, and that disambiguating the species of epistemic luck at issue in this debate can help us to find a way of reconciling both internalist and externalist intuitions about knowledge. I conclude by arguing that once the ambiguous role of epistemic luck in the development of these virtue epistemological theories is made explicit, then the motivation to offer a specifically virtue-theoretic theory of knowledge subsides.

Keywords: epistemic externalism/internalism; epistemic luck; epistemology; Gettier examples; reliabilism; virtue epistemology

Chapter.  10139 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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